Snow play

Places for the kids / Where to play / Cross Country Skiing / Go play

Let's face it. Kids and dogs are smarter than adults when it comes to snow. Watch the adults being interviewed on the news when a big storm hits an East Coast city. You will hear a lot of whining about how horrible the driving is, or that they’ve been out there shoveling all day. Then, hopefully, they give the mic to some gap-toothed girl who’s all excited and smiling from ear to ear. School is closed, she is sledding and making snow angels and just about to bop that damned brother of hers with a snowball. Yep. They get this snow thing.

Now eventually, some of us decide that snow play needs to be sophisticated and structured, and we buy expensive tickets to go downhill skiing. But what if we just let 'em go sledding or cross-country skiing or wandering around dumbfounded among all that whiteness?

Tahoe Meadows at the top of the Mt. Rose Highway is close to Reno and provides some fantastic play space. Park at the Tahoe Meadows trailhead or along the highway and find plenty of room to sled or make snow monsters. It's all free, but the restrooms are closed. That's a perfect opportunity for the kids to learn one of life's essential skills, peeing in the snow.

Granlibakken just outside of Tahoe City has a small ski hill, and a great little sled hill. They have restrooms and parking. www.granlibakken.com

North Tahoe Regional Park in Tahoe Vista has a popular snow play hill, and cross-country skiing with parking and restrooms. www.northtahoeparks.com

The Tahoe City Winter Sports Park on the grounds of the Tahoe City Golf Course has a sledding hill, beginner cross-country skiing and trails for the dogs. They also have a restaurant and bar where Junior can get a hot chocolate while you wrap your hands around something a bit more bracing. www.tahoexc.org/tcsportspark

Head over to one of Tahoe's cross-country ski areas. (More details on page 12) They have rental equipment designed for kids, easy trails to learn the sport, and reduced or free tickets for the little ones. Cross-country skiing is a perfect introduction to skiing. It won't break the bank, and you avoid the crowds.

The most important thing to remember about kids in the winter is you need to get them to the deep snow—preferably with no structure or guidance from the clumsy Muggles. Just let them get out there to make their own magic and play. You remember play? In fact, that's one of the best parts of being a parent. You get to become a kid again. So get out there and start making snowballs and remember to duck, because that one kid over behind that tree on your left has an awesome throwing arm.